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IN the book to which he gave the title On Dowries Servius Sulpicius wrote 1 that in the part of Italy known as Latium betrothals were regularly contracted according to the following customary and legal practice. “One who wished to take a wife,” says he, “demanded of him from whom she was to be received a formal promise that she would be given in marriage. The man who was to take the woman to wife made a corresponding promise. That contract, based upon pledges given and received, was called sponsalia, or 'betrothal.' Thereafter, she who had been promised was called sponsa, and he who had asked her in marriage, sponsus. But if, after such [p. 327] an interchange of pledges, the bride to be was not given in marriage, or was not received, then he who had asked for her hand, or he who had promised her, brought suit on the ground of breach of contract. The court took cognizance of the case. The judge inquired why the woman was not given in marriage, or why she was not accepted. If no good and sufficient reason appeared, the judge then assigned a money value to the advantage to be derived from receiving or giving the woman in marriage, and condemned the one who had made the promise, or the one who had asked for it, to pay a fine of that amount.” Servius Sulpicius says that this law of betrothal was observed up to the time when citizenship was given to all Latium by the Julian law. 2 The same account as the above was given also by Neratius in the book which he wrote On Marriage. 3
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